To me, she was perfect. When she walked, it was like the crowds split and no one else in the world mattered. Not only was she beautiful on the outside, but she was beautiful on the inside. Every day I spent with her was another day in paradise.

At least, I thought.

Sometimes, the signs of a toxic relationship are hidden deep below the surface. Not all toxic relationships are physically abusive, and there’s not always a bruise to show the pain. Most of the time, the pain is actually within us. This is my story of how I neglected my own happiness for what I now know to be a toxic relationship.

It All Started With a Swipe

It’s no surprise that Nicole (name changed for anonymity) and I met on a dating app. There are countless available now and with a simple swipe of your finger, you could be accepting or rejecting the love of your life. The pressure! But, I knew right when I saw Nicole’s picture that we had a connection. Something reached out of the phone to me and grabbed me by the heart. Maybe it was her long, beautiful blonde hair, maybe it was her countless wanderlust travel photos, or maybe it was her quirky answers to the silly questions the app asks you to try to break the ice. Either way, I knew I wanted her and I wasn’t backing down.

And the good news was, she wanted me, too! We both mutually swiped on each other and chatted for a bit on the app. Messages then turned into texts as we exchanged numbers, and those texts quickly turned into a date night. We had our first date at an Italian place close to both of our houses and after dinner, we strolled along the harbor getting to know each other. She told me about her brother, who was currently living in Germany on his Navy deployment, and her mom, who had been nearly MIA for the past five years. Even though it was only the first date, we really opened up to each other and that connection I felt through the screen was real.

Fast forward a few months and things are great. We meet each other’s friends, we become “social media official,” and we talk about a future together (granted, it’s sharing a houseplant, but still!). We even exchanged “I love you” and I don’t think my heart has ever swelled so much.

The Signs Start Appearing

But as we know, this blissful honeymoon phase didn’t last forever. I would never say that I thought Nicole was toxic for me at this point, but some things just weren’t lining up. It turned out that her brother wasn’t actually deployed in the Navy, but instead went to a community college down the street. And that mom that was MIA? She sent Nicole care packages regularly with goodies and sweet notes. I dismissed these kinds of lies with a shrug, figuring that she was trying to protect herself when we first started dating. The lies kept coming, but I kept finding excuses to pass them off.

Then, Nicole kept trying to find ways to distance myself from my friends. At first, she would play it off as she just wanted to spend time with me, which I appreciated, but then it got controlling. I would make simple plans, like to watch the game with some buddies, and she would forbid me to go and play a sob story to get me to feel guilty. I didn’t understand why she was acting like this, when all I wanted to do was hang out with some friends. It’s not like I was cheating on her or seeing someone else.

Finally, she attempted to cut ties with my family and made it difficult to contact them or hang out with them. I’m an only child and have always been close with my parents, but she would act like seeing them was the biggest burden of her life. With all this controlling behavior, I started showing signs of depression. I distanced myself from those around me, lost interest in things I used to love, and would sometimes only see one person throughout my whole day – Nicole. I knew this wasn’t healthy because I was never happy, I felt trapped, and my body even started experiencing physical signs of stress. I knew I had to get out.

Finding Escape

After I realized that Nicole was toxic for me, I left the relationship. It didn’t happen right away, but only when the signs and symptoms got too much for me to bear. Of course, Nicole pushed back and begged me to stay with her, but I knew that I had to get out for my own well-being.

Leaving that relationship was the hardest, yet most important, thing I have ever done. If you or someone you love is in a toxic relationship, find ways to get them help! At times I felt alone, but after Nicole and I broke up, my friends and family were there to support my decision wholeheartedly. It turns out, maybe some things are too good to be true.

Trevor McDonald is part of the content marketing team for Detox Local and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.


Image courtesy of Allef Vinicius.